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Gillingham 3-3 Southend United: Tom Eaves’ hat-trick saves Gills a point

Tom Eaves’ second-half hat-trick got the Gills off and running in the Goals For column, but were only good enough for a point against Southend



Gillingham finally broke their early-season goal drought thanks to Tom Eaves’ second-half hat-trick, but his treble was only enough to scrape a point against Southend United at Priestfield.

Eaves netted with two impressive, but very different, headers before netting from centimetres out after his 80th-minute penalty had been saved by Shrimpers’ keeper Mark Oxley.

Sadly for the Gills, Eaves’ fine day in front of goal was nullified by some unimpressive defending as Southend took full advantage of some static play at the back from Adrian Pennock’s men.

Southend took the lead after 20 minutes after Tomas Holy failed to collect a routine cross and Alex Lacey compounded the error by hesitating under the loose ball, allowing Ryan Leonard to lob the ball into the empty net.

Attacking The Rainham End in the second half, Eaves replied with a superb back-post header, planting a deep Mark Byrne cross up and over Oxley into the far corner to get Gillingham’s season in front of goal up and running.

And Eaves showed his heading ability again for his second, as he executed a perfect full-length diving header to dispatch a Connor Ogilvie cross and put the Gills ahead on 63 minutes.

But Gillingham’s defensive issues of old returned to haunt them again as they conceded just 60 seconds later. Michael Kightly taking advantage of Gillingham’s failure to clear their lines to fire past Holy to equalise.

And the mood dropped again as Southend retook the lead through Simon Cox, who latched onto the rebound as a Shrimpers shot came back off the bar, with no Gills defender in sight.

But despite restlessness in the stands, Gillingham continued to plug away and got a gift with 10 minutes remaining when Mark Byrne was tripped in the box.

Eaves stepped up for his hat-trick, and had to stab home the rebound from point-blank range after Oxley saved his spot-kick.

The Gills are still hunting for their first victory of the 2017/18 season, but will be encouraged by their ability to convert crosses into goals, with two pieces of quality delivery from wide areas and two superb headers from Eaves suggesting there’s something to build on from an attacking sense in future games.

Gillingham team vs Southend

Holy; O’Neill, Lacey, Zakuani (Nugent, 68), Ehmer (Parker, 40), Ogilvie; Byrne, Bingham, Martin; Nash (Cundle, 73), Eaves.

Unused subs: Arnold, Hessenthaler, Wagstaff, Oldaker.